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Altar Building Basics by Mambo Sam.


Published: 09/14/2012 by admin

Categories: Voodoo 101.


So, let's get started, by asking ourselves some basic questions and getting some basic answers.
This is a question that everyone should ask themselves.  What is your direction in this endeavor?  
Are you looking for a spiritual path? Are you disenchanted with conventional religion? 
Do you just want to do magick?  Are you looking for personal empowerment? 
Are you trying to manipulate your circumstances to better your life and the lives of others?
There is no "wrong" answer to any of this.  Maybe you are looking for a combination of things.
I bring this up because I have found it to be useful to have some focus when starting out in the religion.  
Once your altar is set up, you can spend some time focusing on this question.
Remember that Vodou (Voodoo) is a primarily monotheistic religion.  We believe in one God as most Christian religions do.
The lwa are often erroneously referred to as "gods."  I see them more as Saints - Saints with the ability to assist us in
different endeavors.  In Vodou rituals we almost always start with prayers to God - usually those that are part of the
Catholic liturgy. 
Different Lwa are akin to different purposes.  That will be in a different lesson, but for now the understanding part of 
this is that the Lwa are spiritual beings able to help us in the physical world. 
If you desire, you should learn who your met tet is (see the file on Met Tets).  
Once you know who your met tet is, then you can get information on how to serve and call on that lwa. 
I will be offering met tet readings soon if you wish to determine your met tet.
However, you can still serve the lwa without knowing who your met tet is!   
Perhaps you have already done some work and feel an affinity for a certain lwa. 
There is nothing wrong with doing service to that lwa!  And even once you know who your met tet is, there are many
rituals involving many lwa that you are welcome to do!
Most Vodouisants (practitioners of Vodou) have a basic Vodou altar in their homes.  
If this is not possible for you, you might want to consider getting a small chest of some kind and setting up your altar
space when you can or want.  There is nothing wrong with this.
To build a basic altar:
1.  Choose a space and something you want to put your items on - this can range from a table, an elaborate "stepped" 
altar, a desktop, a dresser top, or, as mentioned, keeping your items in something and putting them out as you can.
2.  Get a white cloth that covers your altar.
3.  Most Vodouisants wash the cloth in a personal first morning urine.  Now it isn't gross.  Remember, unless you are sick, 
urine is sterile!    The question to this is always why, why, why?  Urine is a sterile specimen of your body, okay? 
You are basically putting "you" into the process.  "You" should be a part of your altar!  It is your biological specimen into
your work.   Anyway, collect a first morning urine and mix it in a clean basin with some clean water. 
Let the cloth soak in it for a few minutes, then wring it out and let it dry (preferably outside in the sun if you can. 
(If you are squeamish about the urine thing - then wash your cloth in vinegar and water, but if you want my opinion,
this is a "weaker" choice!)
4.  Now, collect some things from your environment - home, work, etc.  Rocks, dirt, small sticks - look for things that you 
feel good about.  "Feel" your way throughout this process. In other words, pick things that feel good to you and you
want to represent your environment(s) in a positive way. Get four small containers and divide the things you have
collected amongst those containers.
5.  Get a collection of candles and candle holders - white candles for sure for everyone to start.  Then depending on 
what kind of work you want to do, later you can get candles appropriate to what you are doing.
6.  Go to a Catholic church and get a small vial of Holy Water.
7.  If you have family members that you want to pray for or do work for, get something small of theirs.  You can also 
use pictures of them, etc.  This can be as simple or elaborate as you desire.
8.  Get a small picture of St. Anthony to put on your altar to represent Legba (remember, he always opens the gate for 
Vodou ritual work).  You can also get an Ellegua head or some other representation of Legba if you desire - again, this is
something that you can get elaborate with or keep simple.
9.  If you know your met tet or if you know something about lwa you have affinity with, you can get items to represent 
these lwa.  If not, save this step for later.
So!  Now you have a space, cloth, and items!!  Good going!  
1.  Presenting the items.  All items should be "presented" before being put on an altar.  So what the heck does that mean?
  It means that each item you put on your space is held upwards in both hands first to the East, then the West,
then the North, then the South.  Why?  Cuz I said so.  :-)  No, not really, when you "present" items this is your way
as a non-initiate as offering a consecration for each item. Additionally, you are respecting the earth, the universe, etc.,
by covering all four directions.  If you have something germane to your own belief system that you want to say at each
direction, then you are welcome to do so.  If not, just concentrate on the fact that you present each item with respect. 
If you are taking down your altar and putting it back up each time, you should present your items.
2.  To set up your altar - 
    a.  Present the prepared cloth and put it on the altar space. (Table, whatever you are using.)
    b.  Put the four containers of items you collected from your enviroment and put one at each corner of the altar space.
    c.  Put the picture of St. Anthony towards the rear (the point farthest away from you) middle of the altar space.
    d.  Put the vial of Holy Water to your left on the altar space.
    e.  Arrange pictures or other items to your liking.
    f.   Keep a white candle in the middle of the altar.
    g.  If you have items for certain lwa, put them (for now) wherever it feels right to you on the altar.  
There are specifics for each lwa, but you aren't going to upset any lwa by putting things not just right on the altar.
You are just beginning!  There is more to be learned and they know that.
Now you have a basic Vodou altar.  If you are doing spell kits (or other products) from spellmaker.com - you can use this 
altar - just put the items from the kit(s) as you are directed to do so in your directions.  It is okay if you have to move stuff
around, back and forth, and such.  The spell kit instructions have specific altar layouts for specific reasons.
The first thing is to light your white candle and pour a couple of drops of Holy Water into your right hand.  
Make a cross (+) on your forehead.  If you don't have a specific need or ritual to do at this time, spend some time
focusing your energy on yourself, your goals with Vodou.  In other words, spend some "me" time in front of the altar. 
It is quite useful to keep a journal of thoughts that come to you.  Sometimes those thoughts are driven by the Lois (loa)
even if you haven't called on them!  The building of an altar is an appeal to the Lois.  You can pray in front of your altar
to whatever particular diety you believe in. 
As stated above, you can do your spell kits from spellmaker.com in front of this altar or any other spiritual or magickal work 
that you like to do.